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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 10, 2000

My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a
short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper,
a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to
“dad.” That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not
receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read
the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with
his young, eager son.

The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed. Finally, Mom
stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began.
Having no carpentry or mechanical skills, I decided it would be best if
I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did.
I read aloud the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we
couldn’t do. Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood
derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the
eyes of Mom).

Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty
proud of his “Blue Lightning,” the pride that comes with knowing you did
something on your own. Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood
derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race.
Once there my little one’s pride turned to humility. Gilbert’s car was
obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars
were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body
styles made for speed. Gilbert’s car was an unattractive vehicle. To
add to the humility Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side.
A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an
uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had “Mom.”

As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing
as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the
finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest,
fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide
eyed, shy eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute,
because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.

Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood
between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his
Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he
stood, smile on his face and announced, ‘Okay, I am ready.”

As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their
car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his heavenly Father within
his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with
surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a
second before Tommy’s car.

Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud “Thank you” as the crowd
roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone
in hand and asked the obvious question, “So you prayed to win, huh,
Gilbert?”

To which my young son answered, “Oh, no sir. That wouldn’t be fair to
ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I
don’t cry when I lose.”

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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
July 29, 2013

Kleenex Alert!!!

During the waning years of the depression in a small southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Brother Miller’s roadside stand for farm fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used, extensively.

One particular day Brother Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked greenpeas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Brother Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

“Hello Barry, how are you today?”

“H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’admiring them peas – sure look good.”

“They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?”

“Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’time.”

“Good. Anything I can help you with?”

“No, Sir. Jus’ admiring them peas.”

“Would you like to take some peas home?”

“No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.”

“Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?”

“All I got’s my prize aggie (marble) – best taw around here.”

“Is that right? Let me see it.”

“Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.”

“I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?”

“Not ‘zackley – but, almost.”

“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red taw.”

“Sure will! Thanks, Mr. Miller.”

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said: “There are two other boys like him in our community — all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marble, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red afterall and he send them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps.”

I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Utah but I never forgot the story of this man and the boys – and their bartering for peas for their taw marbles.

Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occassion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Brother Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into the line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore short haircuts, dark suits and white shirts obviously potential or returned missionaries.

They approached Sister Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as one by one each man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortury, awkwardly, wiping their eyes.

Our turn came to meet Sister Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket.

“This is an amazing coincidence,” she said. “Those three young men, that just left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim “traded” them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size… they came to pay their debt.”

“We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,” she confided, “but, right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.

by W. E. Petersen,
Published in the October, 1975 “Ensign” magazine
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
January 10, 2012

Sir Winston Churchill took three years getting through eighth grade because he had trouble learning English. It seems ironic that years later Oxford University asked him to address its commencement exercises.

He arrived with his usual props. A cigar, a cane and a top hat accompanied Churchill wherever he went. As Churchill approached the podium, the crowd rose in appreciative applause. With unmatched dignity, he settled the crowd and stood confident before his admirers. Removing the cigar and carefully placing the top hat on the podium, Churchill gazed at his waiting audience. Authority rang in Churchill’s voice as he shouted, “Never give up!”

Several seconds passed before he rose to his toes and repeated: “Never give up!” His words thundered in their ears. There was a deafening silence as Churchill reached for his hat and cigar, steadied himself with his cane and left the platform. His commencement address was finished.

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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
January 8, 2011

Kleenex Alert!!! 

I spent the week before my daughter’s June wedding running last-minute trips to the caterer, florist, tuxedo shop, and the church about forty miles away. As happy as I was that Patsy was marrying a good Christian young man, I felt laden with responsibilities as I watched my budget dwindle . . . so many details, so many bills, and so little time. My son Jack was away at college, but he said he would be there to walk his younger sister down the aisle, taking the place of his dad who had died a few years before. He teased Patsy, saying he’d wanted to give her away since she was about three years old!

To save money, I gathered blossoms from several friends who had large magnolia trees. Their luscious, creamy-white blooms and slick green leaves would make beautiful arrangements against the rich dark wood inside the church.

After the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, we banked the podium area and choir loft with magnolias. As we left just before midnight, I felt tired but satisfied this would be the best wedding any bride had ever had! The music, the ceremony, the reception – and especially the flowers – would be remembered for years.

The big day arrived – the busiest day of my life – and while her brides maids helped Patsy to dress, her fiancee Tim, walked with me to the sanctuary to do a final check. When we opened the door and felt a rush of hot air, I almost fainted; and then I saw them – all the beautiful white flowers were black. Funeral black. An electrical storm during the night had knocked out the air conditioning system, and on that hot summer day, the flowers had wilted and died.

I panicked, knowing I didn’t have time to drive back to our hometown, gather more flowers, and return in time for the wedding. Tim turned to me. “Edna, can you get more flowers?  I’ll throw away these dead ones and put fresh flowers in these arrangements.”

I mumbled, “Sure,” as he be-bopped down the hall to put on his cuff links.  Alone in the large sanctuary, I looked up at the dark wooden beams in the arched ceiling. “Lord,” I prayed, “please help me. I don’t know anyone in this town. Help me find someone willing to give me flowers – in a hurry!”

I scurried out praying for four things: the blessing of white magnolias, courage to find them in an unfamiliar yard, safety from any dog that may bite my leg, and a nice person who would not get out a shotgun when I asked to cut his tree to shreds.  As I left the church, I saw magnolia trees in the distance. I approached a house . . . no dog in sight. I knocked on the door and an older man answered. So far so good . . . no shotgun. When I stated my plea the man beamed, “I’d be happy to!”  He climbed a stepladder and cut large boughs and handed them down to me.

Minutes later, as I lifted the last armload into my car trunk, I said, “Sir, you’ve made the mother  of a bride happy today.”

“No, Ma’am,” he said. “You don’t understand what’s happening here.”

“What?” I asked.

“You see, my wife of sixty-seven years died on Monday.  On Tuesday I received friends at the funeral home, and on Wednesday . . He paused. I saw tears welling up in his eyes.  “On Wednesday I buried her.” He looked away. “On Thursday most of my out-of-town relatives went back home, and on Friday – yesterday – my children left.

I nodded.

“This morning,” he continued, “I was sitting in my den crying out loud. I miss her so much. For the last sixteen years, as her health got worse, she needed me. But now nobody needs me.  This morning I cried, ‘Who needs an eighty-six-year-old wore-out man?  Nobody!  ‘I began to cry louder. ‘Nobody needs me!’ About that time, you knocked, and said, “Sir, I need you.”

I stood with my mouth open.

He asked, “Are you an angel?  The way the light shone around your head into my dark living room . .”

I assured him I was no angel.

He smiled. “Do you know what I was thinking when I handed you those magnolias?”

“No.”

“I decided I’m needed. My flowers are needed. Why, I might have a flower ministry! I could give them to everyone!   Some caskets at the funeral home have no flowers. People need flowers at times like that and I have lots of them. They’re all over the backyard. I can give them to hospitals, churches – all sorts of places. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to serve the Lord until the day He calls me home!”

I drove back to the church, filled with wonder. On Patsy’s wedding day, if anyone had asked me to encourage someone who was hurting, I would have said, “Forget it!  It’s my only daughter’s wedding, for goodness’ sake! There is no way I can minister to anyone today.”  But God found a way. Through dead flowers.

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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
January 4, 2014

When I was a boy growing up we had several gardens around our old house. The largest one of all was used just for growing potatoes.

I can still remember those potato planting days. The whole family helped. After my Dad had tilled the soil, my Mom, brothers, and I went to work. It was my job to drop the little seed potatoes in the rows while my Mom dropped handfuls of fertilizer beside them. My brothers then covered them all with the freshly turned earth.

For months afterward I would glance over at the garden while I played outside and wonder what was going on underneath the ground. When the harvest time came I was amazed at the huge size of the potatoes my Dad pulled out of the soil. Those little seedlings had grown into bushels and bushels of sweet sustenance. They would be turned into meal after meal of baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, and my personal favorite: potatoes slowed cooked in spaghetti sauce. They would keep the entire family well fed throughout the whole year. It truly was a miracle to behold.

Thinking back on those special times makes me wonder how many other seeds I have planted in this life that have grown unseen in the hearts and minds of others. How many times has God used some little thing that I said or did to grow something beautiful? How many times has Heaven used these little seedlings to provide another’s soul with sweet sustenance?

Every single day of our lives we step out into the garden of this world. Every single day we plant seeds that can grow into something wonderful. We may never see the growth that comes from the kind words or loving acts we share but God does. I hope then that you always tend the garden around you with care. I hope that you plant only goodness, peace, and compassion in the lives of everyone you meet. I hope that everyday you help miracles to grow.

By Joe Mazzella
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
January 6, 2006

The subway train sways back and forth, its wheels screeching more fiendishly than ever against the tracks. Outside the window the freezing cold of winter rules and the dreary bay looks like a yawning abyss as the train rumbles across it. The carriage is filled with frozen self-centered, bored passengers. Good morning!

Suddenly a little boy pushes his way in between discourteous grown-up legs – the kind that only grudgingly make room for you. While his father stays by the door, the boy sits next to the window, surrounded by unfriendly, morning-weary adults.

What a brave child, I think.

As the train enters a tunnel, something totally unexpected and peculiar happens. The little boy slides down from his seat and puts his hand on my knee. For a moment, I think that he wants to go past me and return to his father, so I shift a bit. But instead of moving on, the boy leans forward and stretches his head up towards me. He wants to tell me something, I think. Kids! I bend down to listen to what he has to say. Wrong again! He kisses me softly on the cheek.

Then he returns to his seat, leans back and cheerfully starts looking out of the window. But I’m shocked. What happened? A kid kissing unknown grown-ups on the train? To my amazement, the kid proceeds to kiss all my neighbors.

Nervous and bewildered, we look questioningly at his father, “He’s so happy to be alive,” the father says. “He’s been very sick.”

The train stops and father and son get down and disappear into the crowd. The doors close. On my cheek I can still feel the child’s kiss – a kiss that has triggered some soul-searching. How many grown-ups go around kissing each other from the sheer joy of being alive? How many even give much thought to the privilege of living? What would happen if we all just started being ourselves?

 

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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
September 12, 2001

This is a two cup story….  Take your time and enjoy!

Two or three times in my life God in His mercy touched my heart, and twice before my conversion I was under deep conviction.

During the American war [Civil War], I was a surgeon in the United States Army, and after the battle of Gettysburg there were many hundred wounded soldiers in my hospital, amongst whom were twenty-eight who had been wounded so severely that they required my services at once.

Some whose legs had to be amputated, some their arms, and others both their arm and leg. One of the latter was a boy who had been but three months in the service, and being too young for a soldier had enlisted as a drummer. When my assistant surgeon and one of my stewards wished to administer chloroform, previous to the amputation, the young soldier turned his head aside and positively refused to receive it. When the steward told him that it was the doctor’s orders, he said: “Send the doctor to me.”

When I came to his bedside, I said: “Young man, why do you refuse chloroform? When I found you on the battlefield you were so far gone that I thought it hardly worth while to pick you up; but when you opened those large blue eyes I thought you had a mother somewhere who might, at that moment, be thinking of her boy. I did not want you to die on the field, so ordered you to be brought here; but you have now lost so much blood that you are too weak to endure an operation without chloroform, therefore you had better let me give you some.”

He laid his hand on mine, and looking me in the face, said: “Doctor, one Sunday afternoon, in the Sabbath-school, when I was nine and a half years old, I gave my heart to Christ. I learned to trust Him then; I have been trusting Him ever since, and I can trust Him now. He is my strength and my stimulant. He will support me while you amputate my arm and leg.”

I then asked him if he would allow me to give him a little brandy.

Again he looked me in the face saying: “Doctor, when I was about five years old my mother knelt by my side, with her arm around my neck, and said: ‘Charlie, I am now praying to Jesus that you may never know the taste of strong drink; your papa died a drunkard, and went down to a drunkard’s grave, and I promised God, if it were His will that you should grow up, that you should warn young men against the bitter cup.’ I am now seventeen years old, but I have never tasted anything stronger than tea and coffee, and as I am, in all probability, about to go into the presence of my God, would you send me there with brandy on my stomach?”

The look that boy gave me I shall never forget. At that time I hated Jesus, but I respected that boy’s loyalty to his Savior; and when I saw how he loved and trusted Him to the last, there was something that touched my heart, and I did for that boy what I had never done for any other soldier — I asked him if he wanted to see his chaplain.

“Oh! yes, sir,” was the answer.

When Chaplain R. came, he at once knew the boy from having often met him at the tent prayer meetings, and taking his hand said: “Well, Charlie, I am sorry to see you in this sad condition.”

“Oh, I am all right, sir,” he, answered. “The doctor offered me chloroform, but I declined it; then he wished to give me brandy, which I also declined; and now, if my Savior calls me, I can go to Him in my right mind.”

“You may not die, Charlie,” said the chaplain “but if the Lord should call you away, is there anything I can do for you after you are gone?”

“Chaplain, please put your hand under my pillow and take my little Bible; in it you will find my mother’s address; please send it to her and write a letter, and tell her that since the day I left home I have never let a day pass without reading a portion of God’s word, and daily praying that God would bless my dear mother; no matter whether on the march, on the battlefield, or in the hospital.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you, my lad?” asked the chaplain.

“Yes; please write a letter to the superintendent of the Sands-street Sunday-school, Brooklyn, N. Y., and tell him that the kind words, many prayers, and good advice he gave me I have never forgotten; they have followed me through all the dangers of battle; and now, in my dying hour, I ask my dear Savior to bless my dear old superintendent. That is all.”

Turning towards me he said: “Now, doctor, I am ready; and I promise you that I will not even groan while you take off my arm and leg, if you will not offer me chloroform.” I promised, but I had not the courage to take the knife in my hand to perform the operation without first going into the next room and taking a little stimulant myself to perform my duty.

While cutting through the flesh, Charlie Coulson never groaned; but when I took the saw to separate the bone, the lad took the corner of his pillow in his mouth, and all that I could hear him utter was: “O Jesus, blessed Jesus! stand by me now.” He kept his promise, and never groaned.

That night I could not sleep, for whichever way I turned I saw those soft blue eyes, and when I closed mine, the words, “Blessed Jesus, stand by me now,” kept ringing in my ears. Between twelve and one o’clock I left my bed and visited the hospital; a thing I had never done before unless specially called, but such was my desire to see that boy. Upon my arrival there I was informed by the night steward that sixteen of the hopeless cases had died, and been carried down to the dead-house.

“How is Charlie Coulson, is he among the dead?” I asked.

“No, sir,” answered the steward, “he is sleeping as sweetly as a babe.” When I came up to the bed where he lay, one of the nurses informed me that, about nine o’clock, two members of the YMCA came through the hospital to read and sing a hymn. They were accompanied by Chaplain R., who knelt by Charlie Coulson’s bed, and offered up a fervent and soul-stirring prayer; after which they sang, while still upon their knees, the sweetest of all hymns, “Jesus, lover of my soul,” in which Charlie joined.

I could not understand how that boy, who had undergone such excruciating pain, could sing.
Five days after I had amputated that dear boy’s arm and leg, he sent for me, and it was from him on that day I heard the first gospel sermon.

“Doctor,” he said, “my time has come; I do not expect to see another sunrise; but, thank God, I am ready to go; and before I die I desire to thank you with all my heart for your kindness to me. Doctor, you are a Jew, you do not believe in Jesus; will you please stand here and see me die trusting my Savior to the last moment of my life?”

I tried to stay, but I could not; for I had not the courage to stand by and see a Christian boy die rejoicing in the love of that Jesus whom I had been taught to hate, so I hurriedly left the room.

About twenty minutes later a steward, who found me sitting in my private office covering my face with my hand, said: “Doctor, Charlie Coulson wishes to see you.”

“I have just seen him,” I answered, “and I cannot see him again.”

“But, doctor, he says he must see you once more before he dies.”

I now made up my mind to see him, say an endearing word, and let him die, but I was determined that no word of his should influence me in the least so far as his Jesus was concerned.

When I entered the hospital I saw he was sinking fast, so I sat down by his bed.

Asking me to take his hand, he said: “Doctor, I love you because you are a Jew; the best friend I have found in this world was a Jew.”

I asked him who that was. He answered: “Jesus Christ, to whom I want to introduce you before I die; and will you promise me, doctor, that what I am about to say to you, you will never forget?”

I promised; and he said “Five days ago, while you amputated my arm and leg, I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to convert your soul.”

These words went deep into my heart. I could not understand how, when I was causing him the most intense pain, he could forget all about himself and think of nothing but his Savior and my unconverted soul. All I could say to him was: “Well, my dear boy, you will soon be all right.” With these words I left him, and twelve minutes later he fell asleep, “safe in the arms of Jesus.”

Hundreds of soldiers died in my hospital during the war; but I only followed one to the grave, and that one was Charlie Coulson, the drummer boy; and I rode three miles to see him buried. I had him dressed in a new uniform, and placed in an officer’s coffin, with a United States flag over it.

That boy’s dying words made a deep impression upon me. I was rich at that time so far as money is concerned, but I would have given every penny I possessed if I could have felt towards Christ as Charlie did; but that feeling cannot be bought with money. Alas! I soon forgot all about my Christian soldier’s little sermon, but I could not forget the boy himself. I now know that at that time I was under deep conviction of sin; but I fought against Christ with all the hatred of an orthodox Jew for nearly ten years, until, finally, the dear boy’s prayer was answered, and God converted my soul.

About eighteen months after my conversion, I attended a prayer meeting one evening in the city of Brooklyn. It was one of those meetings when Christians testify to the loving kindness of their Savior.

After several of them had spoken, an elderly lady arose and said, “Dear friends, this may be the last time that it is my privilege to testify for Christ. My family physician told me yesterday that my right lung is nearly gone, and my left lung is very much affected; so at the best I have but a short time to be with you; but what is left of me belongs to Jesus. Oh! it is a great joy to know that I shall meet my boy with Jesus in heaven. My son was not only a soldier for his country, but also a soldier for Christ. He was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, and fell into the hands of a Jewish doctor, who amputated his arm and leg, but he died five days after the operation. The chaplain of the regiment wrote me a letter, and sent me my boy’s Bible. In that letter I was informed that my Charlie in his dying hour sent for that Jewish doctor, and said to him: “Doctor, before I die I wish to tell you that five days ago, while you amputated my arm and leg, I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to convert your soul.”

When I heard this lady’s testimony, I could sit still no longer. I left my seat, crossed the room, and taking her hand, said: “God bless you, my dear sister; your boy’s prayer has been heard and answered. I am the Jewish doctor for whom your Charlie prayed, and his Savior is now my Savior.”

By Dr. M. L. Rossvally
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